creepy ghost stares at you with big eyes red text dialog

Written by Otaku Apologist

“You’re on a path in the woods, and at the end of that path is a cabin. And in the basement of that cabin is a Princess.

You’re here to slay her. If you don’t, it will be the end of the world.

She will do everything in her power to stop you. She’ll charm, and she’ll lie, and she’ll promise you the world, and if you let her, she’ll kill you a dozen times over. You can’t let that happen. Don’t forget, the fate of the world rests on your shoulders.”

With these words begins one of the more interesting indie games I’ve encountered. Made by Black Tabby Games, this seemingly simple horror title is captivating players across the globe. Your task is simple, just overcome your moral discomfort with killing a woman trapped in a basement. She’s a threat to the world, so you’re justified to go through with this, right? She’s chained and helpless, this shouldn’t be hard, right? Except, in this killing duty, you are guided by a narrator who is, let’s just say, perhaps not the most reliable.

If you are interested in this game at all, I suggest you simply go play the demo that’s available at the time of writing. It’s a very polished demo and several people already made videos about their experience with it. And if you’re not that interested in the full experience, I am going to spoil you big time, if you continue reading.

Spoilers begin below this line.

The narrator has the power to alter reality. If you go against his wishes, he’ll pull every conceivable stunt to force you to do what he wants. He’s manipulative, coercive, and definitely doesn’t have your best interests at heart, which you’ll find out in several of the gruesome endings that conclude in your bloody death.

What makes this game’s concept so resonant is that it’s the perfect representation of authoritarian propaganda. The princess’ physical appearance and attitude towards you will change in response to your expectations and actions. She’s not a passive mind that just waits and submits to her fate. No, she fights back ferociously at your attempts to kill her. And whenever you try to collaborate with her and turn the situation into a win-win scenario, the narrator will possess you, like some demon. And when you die, the time loop seemingly begins anew. Except, the princess clearly remembers your past actions and may outright attack you before you take a step into the staircase leading to the basement in the cabin. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma on steroids.

There’s a lot of interesting things that happen as your choices compound to shape the narrative. Neither you or the princess remain human, assuming either you ever was human to begin with. If you don’t pay attention, you won’t even notice how your hand is sometimes a beastly claw, sometimes covered in scales, sometimes feathers. And the princess too will change into a demon, a beast, a ghost, or some other horrifying thing, seemingly because of the influence of the narrator. The story and atmosphere are riddled with mystery. And you get no solid answers, at least not in the demo, but I doubt the full game once it’s released will spoil everything either.

An experience like this practically requires that you never get to the bottom of it. By foregoing the giving of an explanation, the developer can trap the player forever, haunted by a mystery he can never conclusively resolve or forget.